36% percent of Americans have “very little” or “no confidence” in US banks … Gallup Poll, 2011
According to a recent article in American Banker, “the banking industry’s reputation is about as awful as it’s ever been.” From Libor rigging to blunders at HSBC to the frustration over new bank fees, consumers have lost faith that banks will “do the right thing.”
As someone who has spent my career branding, marketing and helping to build the reputations of many banks and investment firms, these are troubling days. However, in every challenge is enormous opportunity. The article suggests that just like any multi-step program of behavior change, we need to begin by “acknowledging that we have a problem.”
So what are the steps we need to take to move the needle in the other direction? I believe that in order to change perception and increase consumer confidence, we have to remember the fundamentals.
Fundamentally, people want some pretty basic things. They want banks to work in an ethical way. They want to be listened to. And they want their needs to be put ahead of their bank’s need to make profits. Seems fair enough.
Encouragingly, there’s an important nugget buried inside these tough-to-hear statistics. People don’t really want to change banks. While there is negativity towards the industry in general, focus groups show that people feel pretty good about where they personally bank. Or, at least they don’t feel bad enough to want to go through the hassle of making a change. What that suggests is a lot of room to strengthen
a lot of relationships.
Here are a few questions you should ask yourself and your management team:
1. Do you know for sure what your customers really (really) want?
2. Is your strategy consistent with what your clients are telling you they want?
3. How satisfied are your existing clients and how does that compare to previous years?
4. Do you know how your current clients and prospects perceive you vis a vis your competitors?
5. Do you have clear positioning statements and proof points around your marketing messages and are they customized to the various markets you’re serving?
6. As Boomers approach retirement, it’s critical to think about strategies to attract and retain a new generation. What steps have you taken to appeal to the Gen Y consumer?
7. Is your brand experience consistent across all delivery channels?
8. Are you practicing the three mandates of great marketing: clarity, consistency and constancy?
In today’s digital age, there are many ways to find out where you stand with your clients and prospects and then use a data-driven approach to build a marketing plan that can help you communicate what your clients want – and need to hear from you.
As we all know from the lessons learned in the Great Depression, consumer confidence is essential to a well-functioning financial system. And a strong financial system is integral to sustainable economic growth and job creation. We also know that it takes a lot more work to “un-do” a negative perception than to establish a new one. The bottom line? Banks can’t forget that they’re in the customer experience business. Make it a good one and your customers will make you their bank for life.